BBC heads to the frontiers of space and time with new Science Fiction programming

Historian and author Dominic Sandbrook head to the very frontiers of space and science to offer audiences the definitive television history of science fiction. Image: BBC

Historian and author Dominic Sandbrook head to the very frontiers of space and science to offer audiences the definitive television history of science fiction. Image: BBC


The BBC has announced a number of science fiction-related programmes, including a new four-part series on BBC Two in which Dominic Sandbrook explores how science fiction has offered a revealing window into our dreams and our nightmares that will feature input from the likes of comics writer and author Neil Gaiman, Time Traveller’s Wife and comic author Audrey Niffenegger; and SF author William Gibson.

BBC iPlayer will also feature three exclusive new films featuring podcast maestros The Geek Syndicate (who are also regular champions of British comics and creators), and a special film narrated by Doctor Who writer and Sherlock star Mark Gatiss.

Across the radio waves, BBC stations will offer a wealth of content, from a themed Freak Zone on BBC Radio 6 Music, to discussion on BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking.

Here’s a rundown of the announced shows:


Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History Of Science Fiction

This new landmark series on BBC Two sees historian and author Dominic Sandbrook head to the very frontiers of space and science to offer audiences the definitive television history of science fiction.

This entertaining series made by BBC Arts tells the story of one of the liveliest and most stimulating genres in popular culture, through its impact on cinema, television and literature. With each episode exploring an enduring theme of science fiction – space, invasion, robots and time – Dominic shows how the genre has been a revealing window into our dreams and our nightmares. It features some of the genre’s greatest pioneers – the filmmakers, writers and actors whose obsession and imagination has taken them into the unknown.

The programme will hear from leading figures from cinema, TV and literature, including Rutger Hauer; Zoe Saldana; Richard Dreyfuss; David Tennant; Steven Moffat; Neil Gaiman; Nichelle Nichols; John Carpenter; Audrey Niffenegger; Edward James Olmos; Karen Gillan; Ursula K. Le Guin and William Gibson. Having explored the future, the past, parallel universes and galaxies far, far away, they are ready to report back on their experiences.

Tomorrow’s Worlds: The Unearthly History Of Science Fiction is the story of science fiction told by the men and women who fell to earth: from HG Wells’s War Of The Worlds to The Terminator, from Doctor Who to Star Wars this series guides viewers through a rich, thought-provoking and endlessly exciting genre.

BBC iPlayer

Also available the same day the series starts are three brand new BBC iPlayer exclusive films:

My Life In Science Fiction: Invasion Of The Fans

Science Fiction wouldn’t be the phenomenon it is without its fans. From home-made costumes to the joy of convention-going and obsession with the best of literary Science Fiction, a range of British fans reveal how Science Fiction has changed their lives in surprising and even moving ways. Your guides to this world are podcast maestros The Geek Syndicate.

A scene from the original Invasion Of The BodySnatchers, released in 1956, now being re-shown in cinemas.

A scene from the original Invasion Of The BodySnatchers, released in 1956, now being re-shown in cinemas.


My Life in Science Fiction: Days Of Fear and Wonder

This autumn, the British Film Institute is laying on one of its biggest ever events – Days Of Fear And Wonder, a nationwide celebration of Science Fiction. A panoply of Science Fiction films and TV shows will be presented to the nation, from the old to the new, the quirky to the cutting-edge. So what will uber-fans and podcast maestros The Geek Syndicate make of it? Fresh from presenting their first BBC iPlayer film, Invasion of the Fans, the Geeks – Barry Nugent and Dave Monteith – will embark on their own mini Science Fiction road trip, giving us a unique, fan’s-eye view of this major cultural happening. Enthusiastic, argumentative and outspoken, they’ll provide an insightful, personal take on the delights of Science Fiction and the world of its fans.

My Life in Science Fiction: Stories from the Stars

This short film, narrated by Mark Gatiss, sees some of Science Fiction’s brightest stars give an entertaining insight into their best-known work. Richard Dreyfuss talks about hazardous mountain-climbing in Close Encounters of a Third Kind; Rutger Hauer shares memories of his feathered co-star from the climax of Blade Runner; Nichelle Nichols discusses her legendary kiss with Captain Kirk in Star Trek; and Alien’s Veronica Cartwright and Star Wars‘ Anthony Daniels recall some challenging costumes.

BBC Radio

On Friday 21st November, The Radio 2 Arts Show with Claudia Winkleman will see reporter Thomas Magill head to the sci-fi and multi-media convention, ArmadaCon 26, in Plymouth where author and comic strip writer and former script editor for Doctor Who Andrew Cartmel will be one of the guest speakers. On Monday 24th November, the Simon Mayo Drivetime show will have a sci-fi theme. Simon will be asking listeners to get in touch and suggest their favourite classic sci-fi tunes that he will then play during the show.

In 6Music’s Freak Zone on Sunday 23rd November, Stuart Maconie will feature music from space, sci-fi soundtracks and strange sounds from Jodrell Bank radio telescope. Plus, the Director of Abandon Normal Devices talks about their commission for a new audio-visual piece to be projected onto the telescope as part of the BFI’s nationwide celebration.

A poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Art by Bob McCall.

A poster for 2001: A Space Odyssey. Art by Bob McCall.


Over on Radio 4, Francine Stock will present a new series running throughout The Film Programme for two months – The Story Of The Sound Effect. To mark the BFI’s season Days Of Fear And Wonder, the programme will hear from the people who created some of the most famous sound effects in the history of science fiction cinema. And, as 2001: A Space Odyssey is re-released in cinemas, Francine presents a special edition of The Film Programme on Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece on Thursday 27th November.

Radio 3’s Free Thinking will air Fear Or Wonder – Everything Under the Moon on Tuesday 25 November. How do science fiction and space travel change our relationship with this world? Do the limits of our knowledge about the future make us scared or optimistic? BALTIC’s They Used To Call It The Moon brings together artworks to reflect the new space race. Matthew Sweet asks whether utopian and dystopian visions of our planet inspire us with fear or wonder. His guests are Roger Luckhurst, Professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at Birkbeck College, University of London; novelist Naomi Alderman; and Curator of Exhibitions & Research at BALTIC, Allessandro Vincentelli. This discussion will be recorded at BBC Radio 3’s Free Thinking Festival at Sage Gateshead, a weekend of provocative debate, new ideas, live music and performance, this year under the theme of The Limits Of Knowledge.

Free Thinking: 2001: A Space Odyssey marks the UK-wide re-release of Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film. Matthew Sweet chairs a special discussion exploring and celebrating the films enduring influence. He is joined by the film’s two stars, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood; scientist Professor Brian Cox and Sir Christopher Frayling to discuss the theme and more.

For Sound Of Cinema: Matthew Sweet in conversation with Steven Price Matthew Sweet is joined by British film composer Steven Price, best known for his work on films such as Attack The Block; The World’s End; Fury; and Gravity, for which he received an Academy Award for his breathtaking score. Together, they chart some of the seminal scores composed for British sci-fi movies, with a lavish array of aural illustrations.

The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Explorer (previously known as Star Trek Magazine) and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of "Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies" for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.

Categories: Audio, Doctor Who, Other Worlds, Science Fiction, Star Trek, Television

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